Paul Clarke Update

17 November 2009

Remember the outcry after the discovery that Paul Clarke could face five years in prison for the "crime" of finding a sawn-off shotgun in his garden and handing it in to his local police station? No, me neither. Well, blog-land has not been happy about this but, as a reader points out, our friends at newspapers and the BBC have completely ignored it:

This story is getting zero coverage. I’ve seen more coverage from American websites than I have from UK sources. I’ve done a search at the Times, the Guardian and the BBC News website and – unless I’m doing something very wrong – none of them seem to be touching it. It doesn’t even feature on the BBC website’s local coverage for Surrey. It seems to me that this is a story in and of itself, no? I mean this is a pretty fundamental legal issue, I’d have thought, and if it isn’t clarified (or changed) then it’s only a matter of time before some other poor sod is going to be staring down the wrong end of a five-year minimum prison sentence for trying to do his civic duty. What, the Beeb can find bandwidth for "Two kite surfers jump over pier", "Cat tied to washing post put down" and "Schoolgirls hurt in tractor crash", but they can’t find space for this?

Quite. Indeed, you can add the Telegraph to the list of newspapers ignoring this story. Perhaps there are good reasons for not covering the matter but if there are or if there’s more to the case than initially seems to be the case it would be no bad thing if some enterprising newspaper editor asked his reporters to find out. Of course, the papers could be waiting for Mr Clarke to be sentenced next month, but…

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  • rndtechnologies786

    Good blog.

  • Simon from Aus

    What an absolute travesty of justice. The man is an ex-soldier, to him a gun is just a tool, not an object of such abject horror that he can’t touch it, needs to bother 999 about it, or needs to set up a police cordon around it.

    It’s just a firearm, not a bomb. What was he supposed to do, leave it there while he went off and called 999? What if a child found it in the meantime? He did the right thing in taking it into safekeeping and handing it in immediately.

    And yet now he’s going to be punished for it because of a ridiculous zero-tolerance law that allows no room for judicial discretion. The British legal system has become a joke. Or at least it would be a joke, if there weren’t lives being ruined by stupidity like this.

  • DJ

    Neil, Steve, etc. Here’s another person who took firearms to a police station, didn’t tell the police what she had when she phoned them, didn’t dial 999, and had them in her house for many years. She wasn’t prosecuted.

    Is she not normal too? Is there more to her story than meets the eye? Or is the difference that she’s a little old lady and so the law is applied differently?

  • Steve Clarke

    Im not sure if anyone really understands how completely idiotic the guy was.. Why on earth did pick then gun up.. the only reason there is no coverage in the uk is that everyone accepts he did break the law. He possibly tampered with evidence and he was in control of a firearm best intentions or not.. what say he got off.. Anyone caught with a firearm in the future could say “oh i was just off to to police station with it” Find a gun in a bag in your back garden anyone with an ounce of sense would phone 999

  • Neil Hoskins

    This guy found a sawn-off shotgun in his back garden, and “didn’t know what to do” so he personally carried it to a police station and handed it to a senior officer? He didn’t think TO DIAL 999??!! The bloke is clearly not normal or there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

  • Peter O’Connell

    BBC Radio 4 did cover this story, which is where I first heard about it. However it still has not made the website even though they obviously have the material.

  • Opinionated

    My guess is his barrister is trying to get him tried in a court of public opinion for leniency.

    I would like to see the court transcripts before making a judgement.

    A jury is unlikley to send someone down for trying to do the right thing, and the CPS would not waste money on an expensive jury trial if this was indeed a good samaritan. It would probably have been tried in a magistrates court for a case of posession without intent.

    I suspect there is more to this than the Sun has reported…….

  • Paul Walter

    It was actually a big spread on page 25 of The Sun last Thursday and there was an interview with Paul Clarke’s lawyer, Lionel Blackman, on PM last night.

  • Snowman

    I too tried the Internet, and found nothing. Are you sure you got it right?

  • Kittler

    Could be a lot more similar cases in Scotland if Parliament ever accepted Labours demands for a mandatory two year sentence for possession of a knife.
    Soft on knife crime they wail because the Government think it wise to leave the Judiciary with some discretion, so that perhaps a carpenter on his way home from work, who gets out of his car at a shop with a blade still in his overalls doesn’t do two years jail.

  • Sir Graphus

    Mr C is probably saying nothing, because his lawyer negotiating a suspended sentence.

    One day I’ll get called for jury service and I’ll get something rather dull, cut and dried. But if I got a case such as this …

    If you found a gun or drugs in your back garden, what would you do, in light of this? Phone the police or bury it? Certainly, handing it in carries a significant risk, now. It may well be vital evidence in a homicide, but I think I’ll probably bury it.

  • Paul

    I note that the ‘ThisIsSurrey’website, which you quoted in your first post on this, has now stated: ‘Comments on this story have been disabled for legal reasons’.

    I suspect Mr C may be saying nothing at all to anyone for the same reasons.

  • jpeeps

    You’re a journalist – can’t you make a few calls or something?

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